Posted: May 24, 2012 10:46 AM by Marnee Banks - Montana's News Station
Capitol reporter Marnee Banks has posed questions to each of the candidates who are running to become the next governor of Montana. Jim Lynch
Biography: Jim began his public service career in 2005, appointed as Director of the Montana Department of Transportation by incoming Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
At MDT, Jim gained a reputation for delivering projects stalled in state administration while transforming the organization into a results-oriented entity with a greater sense of urgency. At the same time, he demonstrated an ability to listen effectively and engage legislature, state agencies and citizens in a positive and constructive way.
Jim did more than oversee job-producing construction projects. He also took the lead in highway safety, working with local agencies and law enforcement to implement a program that reduced traffic fatalities to their lowest levels in 12 years - despite significant increases in traffic.
Jim has a well-known reputation for being first on the scene and accessible in dealing effectively in emergency situations as well as volatile and hostile situations. His proactive approach generates confidence from others that their issues are heard and their problems will get attention. His hands-on approach and personal presence at emergency roadwork projects across the state during the spring floods of 2011 are an excellent example of his commitment to the people he serves.
Also, Jim has been awarded the Citizens Service Medal from the City of Kalispell and the Kalispell Police Department; and the Meritorious Service Award from the Montana Department of Justice and the Montana Highway Patrol. He has been active in the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, having served as a past president, and as a board member of Flathead Industries. He also serves on the Northwest Healthcare Foundation A.L.E.R.T. advisory board.
Jim Lynch possesses a unique combination of experience in both the private and public sectors that will enable him to work effectively with the legislature, the state agencies and you, the residents of Montana, to prioritize expenditures to promote economic development, create jobs, improve education and streamline our government to provide the necessary services taxpayers expect.
Currently the State of Montana is predicted to end the biennium with more than $400 million in the general fund. What will you do with this money?
Any surplus in the general fund will be returned to the taxpayer. Governor Schweitzer by statute will prepare a budget for this next legislature to approve. He will use the surplus to fund unnecessary programs, rewarding his cronies that have supported his administration at the expense of taxpayers who did not.
Unfortunately, the gubernatorial election occurs only a matter of days before Governor Schweitzer's budget is made public and given to the legislative fiscal division in preparation of the 2013 Legislature. Due to this timeline, its contents will be shrouded in political haze, and no one will be looking into the details of this budget until the following session, which is to late. Because of this, the day after I am elected I will begin to make necessary changes in Schweitzer's budget to free up the spending of surplus dollars and return those dollars to the taxpayers through permanent tax relief and refunds.
I am the only gubernatorial candidate that has the budgeting expertise and insider knowledge to identify the traps Governor Schweitzer has for the next administration. I spent over six years inside his administration, and those traps will be there, waiting to sabotage his successor before he even steps through the doors of the capitol. I know how to ferret out the wasteful spending and abuse of taxpayer dollars that will be hidden in his budget. I am the only candidate that has the experience needed to fix the budget before it can take its intended effect.
The State of Montana is facing a huge deficit in its pension system. How do you plan on addressing this?
Without increasing taxes, using existing and additional increases in state revenues, creating efficiencies in state government and employee contributions, my administration will develop a plan to fund the pensions as required by state law. Defined benefit plans will not be offered to new hires. Instead employees will be offered a 401K-type retirement plan, manage by the employee. State contributions to the plan will be determined by a percentage of budget savings and employee contributions.
Are you happy with the state's current eminent domain laws? If not, what would you like to see changed?
I am very familiar with eminent domain, and its use and abuse by government entities. HB 198 did not go far enough to protect private landowners from the potential abuse in the circumstance where the financial gain of a public utility, not the public benefit, is significant. This still needs to be addressed.
Eminent Domain law does require the entity to establish necessity in order to take land. However 'necessity' is very loosely defined. For instance, an environmental document so closely defined could establish a 'necessity' and do so without even allowing for an option to move the location to better serve the landowner and or public. The law will need to be changed directing the environmental processes to allow for more options necessary to protect private property rights.
As the Director of the Montana Department of Transportation, without legislation, I worked with our right-a-way department to change the way MDT purchased land from private property owners. Since this change, the need for eminent domain to acquire land has almost never been used.
Our success was in developing positive relationships with private landowners whose land was necessary to expand highways. We needed to understand the uniqueness, improvements and historical importance their land has to their family prior to starting any appraisal process. Finally, we would discuss the appraisal with the landowner prior to coming up with the final value. This change in attitude and respect allowed us to acquire their land, or move alignment if necessary, to accommodate the landowner.
This is not "a Novel Idea" but instead a common sense practice in my book. Unfortunately it was seldom done in government. Placing the private property owner first resulted in hundreds of right-a-way purchases in record time, without ever having to utter the words eminent domain or condemnation while negotiating the sale.
Eminent domain must only be used as the very last option and only when there is a clear and completely indisputable public benefit. I would support legislative changes the puts MDT's new process into law.
How would you like to see Fish, Wildlife & Parks manage wolves?
As Governor, I will work with the experts in wolf research, and others within the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Department of Livestock, and State Public Health Officials to control disease, and reduce the numbers of wolves in Montana to a safe and manageable number.
It is now time to ensure Montanans, that Montana authorities, hunters, farmers and ranchers will manage the wolf population. I will instruct FWP to include the wolf in the State's vertebrate pest program, and FWP hunting programs. The wolf needs to be hunted year round until the numbers are brought into control. Farmers, ranchers and hunters need to be free to protect their livestock, and wildlife populations, without fear of retribution from unnecessary state and federal regulators.
My Lieutenant Governor, Doctor Al Olszewski will lead the coordination of individuals from the public, individuals in FWP who are involved in wildlife management, individuals within the Department of Livestock, and medical professionals in the Department of Public Health and Human services to educate the public about the dangers of wolf- carried Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm. A plan will immediately be put in place to monitor not only wolf harvests but also big game harvests to determine the incidence of Hydatid cyst disease in our wolf, deer and elk population. We will educate our hunters on proper handling of wild canine carcasses to avoid infections from inhaling or ingesting the tapeworm eggs. Finally, the wolf packs found to be infected with Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm need to be de-wormed or eliminated in order to break the life cycle of this organism.
This will be considered a major public health problem for our citizens that can be prevented only by a pro-active program.
If the U.S. Supreme Court keeps the Affordable Care Act intact, an estimated 82,000 Montanans will be added to the Medicaid system by 2019. How do you plan on paying for this?
If Obama care is forced on Montana and Montana is denied a waver and all other attempts to abolish Obamacare in Montana fails, then Montana will fund any increase in Medicaid obligations from revenues received through natural resource development, business expansion and efficiencies found within existing state budgets. I will not let this unfunded mandate break Montana.
Last session the Montana Legislature tightened up the state's DUI laws. Do you believe they are adequate? If not, where would you like to see changes?
As the Director of the Montana Department of Transportation, I was given the responsibility for changing the direction of our highway safety office by concentrating on saving lives, not just giving out grants. In 2010 Montana was below 200 fatalities for the first time since 1996. Alcohol related fatalities were declining. Establishing the four "E's" to drive highway safety through Education, Engineering, Emergency Medical Success, & Enforcement, Montana highways were becoming safer.The Montana Legislature's actions to tighten up DUI laws did and will continue to aid these efforts into the future. Tightening up the laws made a difference in aiding and giving credibility to Montana's overall comprehensive safety programs. Continued review and necessary legislative changes to maintain the effectiveness of current legislation is a must. Doing so assures Montanan's that lives will be saved.
Montana is rich in natural resources. What is your plan for developing wind, oil, gas and coal?
My plan will be to develop an attitude in government statewide that understands the customer is the private sector. We will use the existing rules and regulations to assist economic development including the energy sector, and not use the regulations as roadblocks to development.
Natural resource development has almost unparalleled potential in Montana, however it is being limited not only by the lack of government cooperation, but also the need for sufficient infrastructure in place to accommodate development. To start, we must review our laws, regulations, policy, and tax structure to assure Montana can compete with our natural resource development competition in other states. We need only to look next door to North Dakota to see how better infrastructure and a pro-business focused state government has allowed both the coal and oil industry to bring high paying jobs to their state. As governor, I will ensure that Montana exceeds the successes of our neighbors to the east and focus on creating significant economic growth by tapping the treasures just beneath our feet.
Natural resource development must be supported with investment in efficient transportation, storm water drainage, sewer, water, and utility expansion in order to optimize extraction economics. The XL pipeline is only the beginning, and its completion will provide a vital form of well to market transportation. However, without the coordinated effort of state agencies and private businesses in the building of roads and rail facilities, as well as adequate oil storage facilities, oil and natural gas producers will see their wells producing faster than the existing infrastructure can send it to market. Unlike the Otter Creek coal reserves, where frivolous environmental litigation continues to obstruct economic development and job creation; new natural resource development will be ushered in under new priorities. This will require the streamlining of permit processing, as well as appointing agency directors that understand the sense of urgency that is required to best take advantage of these resourcesAs a state we need to be innovative and willing to enter into public private partnership opportunities that incentivize private investment in our oil patch.
Supported by tax revenue from resource development we can offset the cost of infrastructure improvements and education costs to this state and reduce property tax. I will immediately repeal the Business Equipment Tax for all businesses. The reduction of state employees, through natural attrition, will generate more in budget savings alone then business equipment tax brings in. Additional revenues received from natural resource taxes will be used to start weaning the K-12-education budget from the property tax rolls. We can accomplish this through general fund revenue increases do to business expansion and natural resource development. . Through limited yet responsive government, natural resource development during my administration will bring about more jobs, better roads, improved schools, and lower taxes.
Explain where you stand on abortion, homosexual marriage, & the death penalty.
My administration would respect life from conception to natural death. A society that respects defenseless life in the womb is a great society.
Marriage is between a man and a woman.
I do not support the death penalty. I believe in life in prison without parole and without privileges other then what's needed to be humane. That being said, the State of Montana does utilize capital punishment as a lawful sentence. As governor I will uphold the laws of Montana at every occurrence.
Are you proposing any changes to Montana's tax structure? If so please explain.
Yes. The business equipment tax is gone immediately. After that, I will go through all agencies, realize efficiencies, and return all unnecessary expenditures back to the taxpayers, through permanent tax relief and refunds.
Funding of K-12 education will be done through increases in business development including natural resource development. Rather then using this increase in revenue to build bureaucracies in state government, I will develop a plan to wean K-12 education dollars from the property tax rolls. The funding of education from the revenue rich general fund will result in a significant decrease in Montana property tax, while ensuring our education system has the tools it needs to succeed.
Should corporations be allowed to spend money to influence Montana elections? Why or why not?
This issue is nothing more then partisan political strife being played out in yet another battle. The governor and attorney general say corporation shouldn't be able to spend money to influence elections. Yet they support trade unions spending billions upon billions to elect democrats. In fact, the NEA/AFT spends more dollars on elections then all other lobbies combined, and without the permission of their union members. So as long as Bullock and Schweitzer defend union's unlimited spending on elections in Montana, why should they not allow corporations as well? It is the same thing.
Do you think Montana voters trust their elected officials? Please explain.
No. Montana voters not only distrust elected officials but also equally distrust the current political election process. Politicians haven't given voters much reason to trust. We have a governor that wanted to pull permits from a law-abiding company moving heavy wide loads across Montana just because he did not like them. He moved Buffalo in secret so the very same people he was elected to represent would not stop him. He touts transparency in government, but has many undisclosed meetings at his residence away from the state capitol. We have an attorney general leading a fight against "corporations" while not addressing the big money he receives without end from unions. Our legislature ignored the initiative process set in our constitution buy overturning the medical marijuana initiative rather then following the direction of the initiative by writing the rules necessary to meet the intent and keep law abiding citizen out of harms way from the federal government. And the list goes on.
We have a so called "front runner" on the Republican side that claims to have some obsequious conservative rating, yet as a congressman supported bailouts before wall street though bailouts were cool, supported the formation of a world criminal court in which our soldiers and citizens could be tried under global laws we have no control over as citizens. We have a slew of candidates that recite the same old rhetoric without having a record of actually doing it. The democrats' front-runner faced with having togive back campaign contributions, at the last minute is blessed with a candidate to run against allowing him to keep the money. Is it really a surprise the residents of Montana distrust their government. The answer is no. Lets not keep sending a broken political solution to manage government and instead send new ideas, fresh faces, and experienced managers qualified to manage government like a business. I have that experience. Proven performance, not partisan politics.
Why should someone vote for you?
I am not a political insider. I am a businessman with years of management experience in both the private and public sectors. I have a proven track record in getting things done. I proved that a private sector conservative business model could work in state government. I have been successful in assisting private sector economic development and jobs. I know what needs to be done to run our state efficiently and effectively. And I know how to do it. I have done it.
In 1986 I made an investment in Western Montana when others were looking for a way out. The region was seeing high unemployment, foreclosures, and interest rates above 20%. I had a vision of success for a business we just purchased and immediately began transforming the company on the verge of bankruptcy to profitability in just one year. Through hard work of dedicated employees, responsible budgeting, and never losing sight of the needs of our customers, we remained profitable until its sale in 2002.
As the company's CEO, I sat on many community boards. I served for 10 years on the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, serving a year as President. I was a board member of the Kalispell Rotary Club, and received the "Paul Harris Fellow" and "Service Above Self" recognition. I received the "Citizen Service Medal" from the City of Kalispell, and Meritorious Service Award from the Montana Highway Patrol, as well as other community recognitions from the Red Cross, United way, and others. I volunteered as a youth athletics coach, & was a High School Football Official.
Working with local government and residents, my company was successful in relocating our construction operations to a new site. This led to the development of our old site into a commercial center providing hundreds in new jobs and vital civic services, while not asking for or receiving any tax subsidy whatsoever.
In 2005, I was offered another opportunity to use my private sector experience to serve Montana. As Director of MDT, I immediately started working to improve the large state agency.
I led a team of 2000 employees and managed a biennial budget of $1.4 billion. Driving process improvement, and focusing on priority spending, we grew contractor payments from $237 million to over 400 million per year without an increase in taxes or additional General Fund allocations. We reduced overtime by $9.7 million and were the only state agency to decrease the number employees in the entire administration. We did this by building projects that serviced the needs of taxpayers, our customer, rather then building bureaucracy.
Examples of this work include: Beartooth Highway Emergency Repairs, ending the flood threat to the town of Joliet, Shiloh Road, Airport Road, and many other projects. These undertakings were ones that residents thought they would never see in their lifetimes, and resulted in putting Montana's highway system in the best shape it has ever been in its history.
As your Governor, and having served as the director of one of the largest agencies in state government, I know that I have approximately 18 days to fix Governor Schweitzer's budget that will not serve the best interest of Montana as we move forward. I will immediately take the proven business processes used at MDT and apply them to all agencies in the state, instilling the same sense of urgency that the private sector has. Using common sense solutions, my administration will build a limited government, providing only the services government can provide to its residents. After those needs have been met, all unused revenue will be returned to the taxpayer.